Los Angeles Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the LA Chowhound community.

Where to Chow and Fly

Once in a while, all Angelenos confront the question: Where can I eat near LAX?

There are a couple of great Pakistani restaurants practically a stone’s throw away: Al Watan (excellent tandoori) and Bilal.

The Googie-esque diner Pann’s is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Dinah’s, another old-fashioned coffee shop, is best for breakfast: go for the legendary apple pancakes (more like apple fritters, with a crust of sugar and caramelized apples) or Dutch baby pancakes.

The Thai restaurant Ayara has become a favorite of some hounds, who head there even when they’re not heading out of the city.

Downtown El Segundo is a little neighborhood gem adjacent to LAX, notes cvc, who always recommends Chef Hannes.

Pann’s booster Will Owen puts in a vote for Second City Bistro as well, for good food, good service, good prices, and pleasant atmosphere.

Al Watan [South LA]
13619 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne

Bilal [South LA]
1117 W. Manchester Blvd. # G, at Aviation, Inglewood

Pann’s Restaurant [South LA]
6710 La Tijera Blvd., at La Cienega, Los Angeles

Dinah’s Family Restaurant [South LA]
6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles

Ayara Thai Cuisine [South LA]
6245 W. 87th St., at La Tijera, Los Angeles

Chef Hannes [Beaches]
411 1/2 Main St., El Segundo

Second City Bistro [Beaches]
223 Richmond St., El Segundo

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LAX eats

Dive Into Great Mexican in Orange

One of the best Mexican/Oaxacan places in OC is El Montezuma, a hole-in-the-wall in Orange, says robgue, who’s something of a Mexican food snob.

One favorite: pambaso. This sandwich is stuffed with potato, chorizo, and cream, and smothered in chorizo drippings. Mole plate is excellent, and so are enchiladas suizas. Quesadillas (get tinga or rajas) spill over with lettuce, queso fresco, and cream.

They have other Oaxacan specialties, like tlayudas and chapulines (crickets–off the menu). Aguas are all made from scratch.

The joint is pretty plain, but comfortable, not run down. Note that while the name is El Montezuma, the sign out front says La Calle in a holdover from a previous incarnation.

El Montezuma (sign says La Calle) [Inland of OC]
1740 W. Chapman Ave., Orange

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Super-delicioso Mexican

A Vietnamese Orgy of Beef

The promiscuous lover of beef should try a seven-way, and there’s no better place in OC than Pagolac, says elmomonster.

Beef seven ways is a Vietnamese classic meal, and not as overwhelming as it might sound–most of the courses are pretty light.

1. You start with bo nhung dam, a shabu shabu-like dish of thinly sliced tenderloin that you swish in a simmering vinegared broth and then wrap up with herbs in rice paper.

2. Bo la lot are stubby meat stogies that pack a wallop of beefy, spicy flavor. The la lot wrapper tastes kind of like a cross between grape leaf and nori, with a peppery bite.

3. Bo sate (you may have noticed by now that “bo” means beef) is supremely tender pieces of grilled tenderloin, rolled up with slivers of ginger at the center. Like a great steak, but no cutting involved.

4. Steamed spheres of ground beef packed with mushrooms, peas, and bean thread noodles are known as bo cha dum. They’re crumbly-soft and pleasantly fatty–good with shrimp chips.

5. The best meatballs elmomonster has ever had are the bo nuong mo chai, beef sausage balls seasoned with a touch of five-spice and wrapped in caul fat so they baste themselves while broiling. Result: smoky scrumptiousness.

6. As you near the end, a salad is most welcome: bo bit tet. This time the sliced tenderloin comes sluiced with tart Italian dressing over a bed of refreshing butter lettuce.

7. The last course is chao bo, a clear soup of rice, minced beef, scallions, ginger, and star pasta–yep, just like that in Campbell’s Chicken ‘n Stars soup.

Seven courses of beef (bo bay mon) is $13.99 per person.

Pagolac Restaurant [Little Saigon]
14580 Brookhurst St., Westminster

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Beef 7 ways at Pagolac

Dinner Rolls That Really Impress

Thee’s Bakery makes some damn fine dinner rolls, says the ever-picky JudiAU.

“When warmed in the oven they were revealed to be very fine with a soft pillowy interior, deep yeasty flavor, and a sheen that may in fact really be butter! I was impressed because nothing, ever, has come this close to my mom’s. Five days later an unopened package was still in great condition….I was very pleased, and to quote Mr. JudiAU–hey, how often does that happen?”

Thee’s is definitely underrated, chimes in Paliman, who puts in a vote for the hamburger buns, hot dog buns. and petits fours.

A dozen smallish rolls are about $5-6.

Thee’s Continental Bakery [Fairfax Village]
The Original Farmers’ Market
6333 W. Third St., Stall # 316, Los Angeles

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Awesome yeasty rolls

Upscale Chinese at the Kitchen

An upscale Hong Kong-style restaurant based in the Bay Area, the Kitchen, has extended its reach to Alhambra, reports Chandavkl. He’s dined at the Millbrae original and says it’s one of the best Chinese restaurants up north.

Dim sum is very good and delicate, with some unusual dishes like cheung fun (rice noodle roll) with a crisp-fried exterior. Fish paste with egg white and milk is also a thing of custardy goodness. On opening, the dim sum menu was only in Chinese, but we hear they’re getting menus with English translations. It’s a hybrid ordering system, with dim sum circulating in carts and by order from the menu.

The dinner menu has a lot of innovative items. They’re also open late, till 1 a.m.

Food is kind of pricey–dim sum runs $1.90, $2.80 or $3.80 per order. Almost nothing on the dinner menu is under $10.

The Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
formerly NYC Jumbo Seafood
203 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

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Checking out the Kitchen

North Hollywood’s World of Bakeries

North Hollywood has a surprising variety of ethnic bakeries, and Das Ubergeek is your self-appointed guide:

For bolillos, you need to go to Panaderia Las Americas.

For Cuban bread and fantastic pastries, go to Porto’s.

For chorny khleb (Russian-style sour rye black bread) go to Blackjack Market.

For lavash and pita, go to Karabagh Market.

For sourdough, go to Tallyrand Restaurant, but don’t sit in any of the seats if you have clean trousers on…get the sourdough to go.

For standard pastries, go to Belwood Bakery.

For Portuguese pastries, go to Nata’s Pastries.

For Chinese-made cakes, go to Hing Lung Bakery.

For Filipino baked goods (pandesal, etc.) go to Good-Ha or the Seafood City bakery one block north of there.

For baguettes, croissants and wonderful mini-pies, go to La Spaghettata at the Studio City Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings.

If you can make it to Eagle Rock, Eagle Rock Italian Bakery is worth it.

Finally, a bit out of the way but so, so worth it is Berolina Bakery, a Swedish bakery with very, very good pastries and prinsesstarta and outstanding bread.

And for a classic kosher bakery, adds GVDub, go to Continental, where they make wonderful rye (especially onion rye) and pumpernickel as well as excellent rugelach, cookies, strudel, and even some Israeli desserts. Their chocolate babka is fab, adds Das Ubergeek, but for regular babka (non-kosher) go to Olive Marketplace; and for challah, cross the street for Sam’s.

Panaderia Las Americas [East San Fernando Valley]
15047 Roscoe Blvd., Panorama City

Porto’s Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
3614 W. Magnolia, Hollywood Way, Burbank

Blackjack Market [East San Fernando Valley]
12643 Sherman Way # G, North Hollywood

Karabagh Market [East San Fernando Valley]
13747 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys

Tallyrand Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
1700 W. Olive Ave., Reese Place, Burbank

Belwood Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
12634 Ventura Blvd., Studio City

Nata’s Pastries [East San Fernando Valley]
13317 Ventura Blvd. #D, Sherman Oaks

Hing Lung Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
12634 Ventura Blvd., Studio City

Manila Good-Ha Fast Food [East San Fernando Valley]
8205 Woodman Ave. # 101, Van Nuys

Seafood City [East San Fernando Valley]
8231 Woodman Ave., Panorama City

La Spaghettata [East San Fernando Valley]
at the Studio City Farmers’ Market
12001 Ventura Pl., Studio City

Eagle Rock Italian Bakery [Eagle Rock]
1726 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles

Berolina Bakery & Pastry Shop [East San Fernando Valley]
3421 Ocean View Blvd., Glendale

Continental Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
12419 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood

Olive Fresh Garden Marketplace [East San Fernando Valley]
12521 Oxnard St., North Hollywood

Sam’s Kosher Bakery [East San Fernando Valley]
12450 Burbank Blvd. # H, North Hollywood

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North Hollywood bakeries

Tamale Taste-Off

When a few hounds got together recently for a taste-off of tamales from across L.A., best in show was Mama’s Hot Tamales’ black mole tamale. With rich and complex black mole and moist and flavorful masa, it’s a real tamale role model.

Runners-up included:

La Indiana’s chile and cheese tamale, astounding with good rajas and a ton of gooey cheese, plus great onion and tomato flavor. It blows their dry, dull chicken tamales out of the water. (russkar claims that their best tamales are actually red pork.)

Guatemalteca’s chuchito is a Guatemalan tamale with well-seasoned chicken filling and a startling tomato sauce that seems like it should be on spaghetti, but complements the flavors really well.

La Fiesta Market’s beef tamale is chock-full of meat, and studded with peas and garbanzo beans–probably a regional variation, but hard to say whose.

La Flor de Yucatan’s colado, or Yucatecan tamale, is kind of divisive–the jello-like texture of its strained masa puts some people off, while others love the taste of the fresh tomato and epazote topping.

And Debbie W reports having a chocolate tamale at Babita–the chocolate apparently being mixed into the masa before steaming. Great stuff, says she.

Mama’s Hot Tamales Café [Downtown]
2124 W. 7th St., Los Angeles

La Indiana Tamales [East LA-ish]
1142 S. Indiana St., Los Angeles

Guatemalteca Bakery [Koreatown]
4032 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles

La Fiesta Meat Market [South LA]
15020 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale

La Flor De Yucatan Bakery [Downtown]
1800 S. Hoover St., at Washington, Los Angeles

Babita [San Gabriel Valley]
1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd, South of Valley, San Gabriel

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The great tamale taste-off

Ramen Champ Santouka Kills ‘Em on the Westside

The new location of Santouka in the West L.A. Mitsuwa is even better than the original location of late, says rameniac–they’re really on top of their game.

Shio ramen is the one to get: rich and flavorful, noodles nice and chewy, with seasoned bamboo and rich, lovely pork. For a little extra, you can get the “special pork”–it’s worth it, says sel. You might also want to order “oomori,” or large bowl, says rameniac–Santouka’s portions are, well, typically Japanese.

The menu is limited for now, with just the shio, soy, miso and spicy miso ramens, and no side dishes. One interesting variation on ramen, though, is tokusen torinaku ramen, where the noodle soup comes with a bunch of toppings, including super-fatty chashu (roast pork), for you to dip in the sauce.

And if you’ve acquired the taste for natto, the traditional and highly divisive dish of fermented soybeans, they’ve got it, says omotosando. A bowl of rice topped with natto and negi is $1.99; you can also get natto and rice with your ramen set.

Regular ramen is $6.49; tokusen torinaku ramen is $9.49.

Santouka Ramen [Beaches]
at Mitsuwa Marketplace
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles

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Santouka for newbies
Santouka quickie
Natto at Santouka and elsewhere
what to get at Santouka

Enough Cilantro to Choke a Cow

At Peruvian Kitchen, not only can you get the usual ceviche and stir-fries of Lima, you can also get beef or chicken hearts as an appetizer. The thinly sliced beef hearts, marinated in vinegar with garlic and chiles, are delicious, and hardly gamy at all, says Chubbypanda. Texture-wise, it’s almost like biting into a slice of filet–a very tender and yet slightly crunchy filet.

Potatoes a la huancaina, or in the style of Huancayo, the capital of the central highlands, are boiled and smothered in a creamy, spicy cheese sauce spiked with olives and chiles. But yuca a la huancaina ups the ante, with stuffed balls of mashed yuca stuffed with cheese before being boiled and covered with the cheese sauce. It’s like a very refined (but more filling) version of nachos.

Arroz con pollo involves braising tender chunks of chicken with rice, tomatoes, saffron, vegetables and enough chopped cilantro to choke a cow. Each bite fills your mouth with chickeny goodness–the chicken pieces themselves just seem like an extra.

Lomo saltado is stir-fried beef, tomato, and French fries, served over rice. It never fails to satisfy.

Tiradito al aji, a kind of spicy ceviche with chile peppers and ginger, is tasty and surprisingly subtle. You can also get it as an entrée (listed as tiradito mancora).

Snapper ceviche is less successful, though–the pieces of fish are just too big, making them hard to chew, while the marinade is a bit too strong.

And for a lover of starch-on-starch action like Chubbypanda, tacu-tacu can raise some…interesting emotions. “Here’s a platter just disturbingly sexy in a drunken, one-night-stand-with-someone-you-know-is-never-going-to-call-you-back sort of way. At the base is a mound of refried beans and white rice, which have been stir-fried together. That’s right. Together. In a sinfully hedonistic, crispy on the outside, creamy with al dente bits on the inside, patty of delectable, heart-clogging delight. On top of that, a perfectly seasoned and grilled country steak full of juicy and flavorful beefy goodness. To either side, two long halves of fried plantain with their rich, crunchy sweetness. Add one egg, sunny-side up, so that when your fork pieces the delicate yolk, the golden nectar within runs out and over the entire, sensually voluptuous experience.”

Peruvian Kitchen [South OC]
8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley

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Noshing Peruvian

French Bistro and Bakery Classics Without the ‘Tude

Taste of France stays true to the spirit of the humble neighborhood French eatery, with a menu that’s mostly simple sandwiches plus quiche, crepes, and a few soups. The daily special rotates between rotisserie chicken, tomato-wine chicken, and mustard chicken–classic bistro dishes.

The rotisserie chicken special includes half a small chicken, a mound of parsley mashed potatoes wrapped in a crepe, and a mixed greens and apple salad with nice soft bread. The chicken is perfectly seasoned, crusted with herbs, and incredibly tender and juicy. Split pea soup with ham is warm and unctuous, and in French onion soup, the caramelized onions really shine through. The quiches, with a tender and flaky crust and flavorful, firm custard, are very good–there’s a quiche with thin slices of potato and large pieces of buttery leek, and another with big chunks of ham, thinly sliced potato, and melted cheese.

The family that owns Taste of France also owns a nearby bakery where they source their sandwich bread, baked goods, and desserts.

Taste of France [OC Beaches]
7304 Center Dr., at Gothard, Huntington Beach 92647

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Neighborhood bistro